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Memo to the President-Elect (Part 2)

A clear and present need for nuclear energy expansion.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2008

of GNEP. However, it should no longer be perceived as a purely American initiative. For a more effective approach, the United States should lead the effort to create a multinational, government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) corporation responsible for achieving the goals of GNEP. Specifically, this multi-national GOCO would be operated by a consortium of well-regulated nuclear component and fuel vendors of the participating developed nations, which would be overseen by a cadre of inspectors (seconded on a fixed rotation cycle from the participating governmental regulatory authorities) and reporting to a ministerial-level board of directors from the signatory governments. This corporation would be responsible for servicing utilities in signatory nations, and provide not only fuel services, but also overall technical and craft support for refueling and maintenance outages. Ultimately, this nuclear-services corporation would provide a consistent and assured level of technical expertise and services to nuclear-plant utilities worldwide, thereby increasing their overall ability to operate safely.

The spent fuel that’s recovered by this GNEP GOCO would be reprocessed at some centralized facility, and the materials that presently are uneconomical to process and use further could be stored at some remote facility that can be readily secured, for possible retrieval at some future date.

As an example, this international GOCO corporation could build and operate mid-ocean floating facilities that would provide appropriate GNEP-type processing facilities. This GNEP GOCO must be monitored as closely as the participating nuclear operators are monitored to ensure that no materials are being diverted for illicit purposes. As such, the security for GOCO’s facilities and shipments should be provided by the signatory nations. For instance, contingents from two or three of the participating nations’ naval forces would be jointly based, on a rotating basis, at the GOCO’s facilities and would accompany the shipments. The actual reprocessing work and delivery of materials would be accomplished by the GOCO using the consortium’s personnel. This allows for a sense of ownership and oversight by all parties, and would contribute to making GNEP less subject to shifting political alliances and world events.

The GNEP concept should also be expanded to require participants to have their facilities inspected by a multi-national cadre of inspectors, on a routine and unannounced basis, and to have non-intrusive sensors installed to allow for remote verification that nuclear materials are not being diverted for proliferation purposes. Moreover, participants from poorer nations, like Pakistan, that have a record of deficient operational and maintenance practices, could be given low-interest loans, backed by the more developed signatories, to ensure their plants are quickly returned to a safer operating status.

Grid-Appropriate Reactors

Several start-up domestic firms ( e.g., NuScale Power and Hyperion Power Generation) already are developing new, smaller reactors for innovative purposes. In addition, the U.S. Air Force recently hosted a public workshop to discuss using small nuclear power plants on their domestic and overseas bases to provide long-term assurance of sufficient electrical supplies. 5 Further, the more established nuclear vendors are working on new and safer reactor designs that use non-LWR technologies. Finally, DOE is budgeted to build a demonstration non-LWR next-generation nuclear